Light Work is pleased to announce the recipients for the 37th annual Light Work Grants in Photography are Neil Chowdhury, Danielle Mericle, and Ahndraya Parlato. The Light Work Grants in Photography program is a part of Light Work’s ongoing effort to provide support and encouragement to artists, critics, and historians working in photography. Established in 1975, it is one of the longest-running photography fellowship programs in the country. Each recipient receives a $2,000 award, has their work exhibited at Light Work, and published in Contact Sheet: The Light Work Annual. The judges for this year were Adam Magyar (photographer), Tate Shaw (Director, Visual Studies Workshop), and Michael Tummings (photographer, 2011 Light Work Artist-in-Residence).
Neil Chowdhury’s series Waking from Dreams of India incorporates photography, video, audio, and photomontage to chronicle his journeys, physical and imaginative, as he explores and comes to terms with his Indian heritage. During his first trip to India in 2002, he was able to locate his family’s home—the property had been left in the care of Chowdhury’s grandfather’s servant Chari. Chari’s extended family lived in huts on the property, and the first floor of the house was inhabited by squatters. Since that first trip, he has returned to India several times to continue to photograph for the project. Chowdhury received his BA from Fairhaven College and his MFA from the University of Washington. His work has been exhibited in group and solo shows internationally. He is an assistant professor of photography at Cazenovia College.
Danielle Mericle’s series The Principle of Limiting Factors, in her words, “interweaves photographs and video of disparate subjects…to meditate on the tenuous state of knowledge and the cyclical nature of history.” The work depicts academic bankers boxes slated for destruction, trees and tree rings, and subjects as diverse as Greco-Roman casts undergoing restoration. Although the items may seem to have no connection at first glance, they ultimately reference our view of the past. Her images question the accuracy of history in which some documents survive and others don’t, whether restored pieces are authentic, and the strangeness of the idea of nature living through monumental cultural movements, wars, and more. The work speaks to the societal and cultural limitations in accessing our history, and the complex relationship between history, knowledge, and power. Mericle’s photography has been exhibited nationwide. She is the author of Seneca Ghosts, noted by Alec Soth as one of the top 10 photography books of 2008. She lives and works in Ithaca, NY.
Ahndraya Parlato describes her images as a way to explore “how we structure our personal worlds, and how we imbue them with a sense of direction, purpose, and security, when, in fact, we control very little.” Her work looks at how people are constantly attempting to shape their lives and worlds into a controllable and ordered place, a goal they will never fully achieve because there are things in life that are “truly unknowable” and uncontrollable. Parlato is interested in the instances where we fail to fit things into controlled spaces, and the “moments of illogic, magic, mystery, and whimsy that lie just below the surface of ordinary life are revealed by instances of rupture and chance.” Parlato received her BA in photography from Bard College and her MFA in photography from California College of the Arts. Her work has been exhibited around the world in solo and group exhibitions and in publications. She has given visiting artist lectures, and she is currently an assistant professor at Ithaca College and a lecturer at Cortland Community College.